So I was pulled over today on Highway 89. There were a few Highway Patrol cars catching people in a speed trap. For those who don’t know, this is where the speed limit has recently changed, in this case, from 75 mph on the freeway to 55 mph on the highway, making for easy pickings for officers trying to give out tickets. So, even if you’re going with the rest of traffic that tends to gradually slow, the law is the law, and you can be cited.
I passed two patrol cars that were pulled off to the side of the road behind some unlucky citizen. It looked as though they were just finishing up, with the officer in front walking back to his vehicle and the citizen’s car signaling to merge into traffic. As I drove past, I looked down at my speedometer and thought I wouldn’t get pulled over. I was wrong; the second of the two patrol cars pulled into traffic, quickly got behind me and flipped its lights on.
I remember thinking it was only about a mile further up the road where I had been arrested years before. At that stop, I believe four or five police agencies had joined the party. It felt good to know nothing like that would be happening this time. I pulled over and the highway patrolman wasted no time walking up to my window. He told me that Highway Patrol was doing speed enforcement today. Whether that is part of a last day of the month money grab or a Labor Day weekend statistic blitz, I will never know. I did get the feeling immediately that this guy had gone into robot mode and had every intention of sticking to the task of giving tickets.
I didn’t say much more than OK until the officer asked why he would be smelling alcohol in my car. Now I wanted to say, “You don’t,” but that would be calling him a liar, so I said, “There would be absolutely no reason that you would.” He informed me that I had what is called an alcohol clause on my license. I actually didn’t know I did. But apparently when I got a DUI back in 2011 for my prescription oxycontin being found in my blood, an alcohol clause was put on my license. The officer told me that meant if I have any alcohol at all in my system then I would be arrested.
I thought it was silly enough when the state made me put a Breathalyzer in my car when after I got that DUI, seeing as how I wasn’t a drinker at all. But knowing I could be put in jail for having 0.01 BAC is bothersome, considering alcohol was never the issue. Still, I knew I would blow zeros. So when the officer asked me to get out of the car once an accompanying officer arrived on scene, I suggested we just do a Breathalyzer and he said that was the easiest way to find out. After blowing clean, I was told I could go back in my car and wait.
When he came back to my window he thanked me for my cooperation, but I feel it was all part of the spiel. Because he then told me he clocked me much higher than the number I saw when I checked my speedometer, yet he was only going to write the ticket for 5 mph over, as in, he’s doing me a favor. I imagine that makes giving a ticket a little more palatable. I sure wouldn’t want to do that job. It’d also be easier, if one felt they were giving tickets for safety reasons, but that wasn’t the case here, it was about numbers.
Still, I get all that. Someone has to do the job and numbers have to be met. It is what it is. The only part I take any exception with is that this officer abused his power when he lied about smelling alcohol. You see, police have to have a reason to ask you to take a Breathalyzer test, and it can’t be because one has an alcohol restriction on their license. So, for probable cause, he used something that nobody can prove was bogus. He knows and I know, he didn’t smell anything. It’s a small thing, but still disheartening, knowing a less than honorable person is doing that job and who is trusted with so much.
I’ll probably always be treated a little different from law enforcement. It makes sense; you could even call it fair. I have a criminal record. I am sure the likeliness of a bust goes way up when there is an alcohol clause attached to the license. So while I may not have earned the extra scrutiny by drinking, I did so by breaking the law and thus, there isn’t much to complain about.
When I got to my basketball game and told everyone why I was late, I may have complained about that extra scrutiny just a little, and was quickly put in my place by an African American friend of mine. He joked DWB (driving while brown) trumps a DUI on the record every time. He has never had any trouble with the law, and yet gets pulled over all the time — definitely made me think.